No matter what your profession, there are always a certain type of tools that you need in order to be successful. Farming is no different. I’m not talking about the tools that says an architect needs a pencil and a ruler to draw a blueprint, or that a construction worker needs a hammer. I’m talking about the basic skills that every one really needs – but almost cannot be taught. Here are a few that I’ve discovered that we need here on the farm, and a few have been exercised almost to the point of exhaustion.
Common Sense – I can’t tell you how many books, pamphlets and magazine articles I’ve read about raising livestock. It amazes me though that not a one of them will tell you that cows and chickens have reasoning power. That is just about the first lesson you learn during OJT.
Patience – To get in a hurry around a farm could mean the difference between getting the job done and spending time with the first aid kit (or worse, in the ER). Barbed wire has to be handled slowly and carefully. Try moving too fast amidst a herd of cows and you could very likely end up flat on your back and with a broken foot – or worse.
OCD – Obsessive Compulsive behavior can be good in small doses. When milking a cow, you begin with a process of cleaning the udder with a cleaning agent and warm water. Your stainless steel bucket has already been rinsed with cold water (to prevent milk stones) and then washed and sterilized. Both jobs need to be done with and OCD outlook, as there is nothing yuckier than seeing flecks of black floating in your fresh milk. Yes, it can be strained out, but still…yuck!
Perfectionism (without the expectation of perfection) – No matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect. The smart thing is trying to be as perfect as you can. Take fencing for instance. It is better to work slowly, drive your tee posts just a little deeper and use the heavy duty clips. Cows seem to have a natural instinct in finding the weakest section and will notify the others that a jailbreak is eminent. Yep. Checking, double checking and even triple checking your work may just mean the difference in a peaceful night’s sleep vs 1:00 am cattle roundups.
Perseverance – Some jobs take longer than others. It is these that we have to have the mindset of ‘one step at a time’. It may take weeks to complete, but you just keep moving. Even when you feel that you are taking two steps forward and one step back, remember you are ultimately still moving forward. Keep at it. Eventually the job really will get done.
Positive Attitude – I cannot tell you how many times I have almost given up hope. Our garden should be written up in the book for natural disasters. I have spent time bending over a septic tank, trying to keep a calf’s head above the ‘water’. I stand in my yard and say a prayer that our barn will last one more year, as this isn’t the year we can afford to build a new one. But I have discovered that as long as I think positively, I have hope. And it is that very hope that helps me make it through another day.
Faith in a God who recognizes we’re a little bit crazy, but loves us anyway – As a creative person, my imagination has a way of traveling down some strange roads. I have way too many ‘great ideas’ and try to bulldoze my way into implementing them. Half way through, I figure out that my idea wasn’t so great after all, but like Black Bart with a watermelon, I just won’t give up. It is only by the Grace of God that I have survived this change in lifestyle. There are days when I can almost see Him shaking his head and chuckling over my latest greatest, but He is patient with me. Eventually, He will lead me back to where I need to be.
Tools are important to have and serve me well. I have ordinary tools, like hammers, screwdrivers and pliers. I have odd ones that mostly farmers have, like fence pliers, trochars and hay hooks. But the ones I depend on the most are the ones that come from a heart filled with determination to make this farming thing work. And those are the ones that have served me best.